The CIA has been collecting the personal information of Americans for years in a secret surveillance program that has no congressional approval, according to a newly declassified letter released by a pair of Democratic senators said late Thursday night.
Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico are branding the collection ‘warrantless backdoor searches.’ They sent a letter to top intelligence officials calling more details about the program to be declassified and demanded immediate action.
The program is ‘entirely outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection, and without any of the judicial, congressional or even executive branch oversight that comes from [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] collection,’ the senators wrote.
The CIA also released parts of the still-classified programs ‘Deep Dive I and Deep Dive II’, which are believed to be massive data repositories – but in heavily redacted material.
The senators invoked Congress’ ‘clear intent, expressed over many years and through multiple pieces of legislation, to limit and, in some case, prohibit the warrantless collection of Americans’ records, as well as the public’s intense interest in an support for these legislative efforts. And yet, throughout this period, the CIA has secretly conducted its own bulk program’ – with the next piece of text in their letter blacked out.
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The members of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent the letter asking about the program on April 13, 2021 – but it wasn’t declassified until Thursday and large parts of it were redacted.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had provided the Senate Intelligence Committee with a report on the program in March, 2021.
According to Wyden and Heinrich’s letter, the CIA’s bulk collection program operates outside of laws passed and reformed by Congress, but under the authority of Executive Order 12333, the document that broadly governs intelligence community activity and was first signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.